Thomas Dyer has been sentenced to 60 days of house arrest as part of a conditional sentence after pleading guilty to uttering a threat to cause death to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
On Thursday morning, Justice Craig A. Parry delivered the sentence in an Ontario Court of Justice, noting in his sentencing he had to take into consideration the potential these threats could have had in the democratic election process.
Parry sentenced Dyer to a 60-day conditional sentence with the duration spent under house arrest. He is only allowed to leave for specific reasons such as work, legal, medical and on Sundays, from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., to shop for vital necessities.
Dyer will also be on probation for 12 months and must complete 100 hours of community service.
“Our recourse is not through vigilantism. It’s through the ballot box,” Parry said in court. “This type of conduct aids and abets the rise of authoritarianism, it does not enhance democracy.”
Parry agreed during the sentencing that incarceration was not necessary, but was consistent in noting the acts from Dyer are anti-democratic and create risks.
Initially, the Crown and defence were in agreement that a non-custodial sentence with a $2,000 fine and 18 months of probation was appropriate.
Parry said it was his belief this sentence did not accurately reflect the charges, and a fine may not send a sufficient message of the seriousness of threatening a political figure who is running for office.
HOW IT STARTED
The charges stem from an incident in Cambridge, Ont. on Aug. 29, 2021, during a campaign stop by the Prime Minister.
According to the agreed statement of facts, the threat took place when Trudeau and his campaign visited a scrap-metal business on Lindsay Road to make a stump speech to promote his party’s climate change policies.
The following day, Gabriel Letourneau, a member of the RCMP’s Federal Policing Threat Assessment Section, was reviewing media reports that showed one protester –later identified as Dyer – holding a poster depicting a hangman leading Trudeau to a noose.
RCMP reviewed Dyer’s Facebook page, which was open to the public, and confirmed Dyer’s identity by comparing photos.
“In that video, the video-taker is walking around a tour bus at Lindsay Road in Cambridge and calling for Prime Minister Trudeau to come out. Dyer uses various vulgar terms to describe the Prime Minister, but never mentions any other politician or person by name,” the statement of facts said.
Dyer was arrested and charged with two counts of uttering threats more than a week after the campaign stop.
One count was withdrawn at sentencing.
Dyer’s lawyer, while agreeing with the non-custodial sentence, said they believed a more appropriate response would be community service as Dyer thinks it “would be more meaningful than paying a fine.”
Nicholas Wansbutter said there are factors in Dyer’s background that are important and salient to the case. He does have a prior criminal record that involves threats and violence on occasion – but that is balanced by taking into account some of the very difficult circumstances in his life.
From 2005 to 2009, Dyer was convicted in a series of violent crimes.
These included forcible confinement, criminal harassment and several assaults.
“That was a prolific period of violence over a four-year period, which stands as a factor that might increase or aggravate what might be a fit sentence,” said Parry in court Thursday.
Wansbutter referenced a motor vehicle accident in 2005 during which Dyer went ‘through the windshield of a pickup truck in a blinding snowstorm’ and was diagnosed with post-traumatic brain injury as a result of the crash.
“At the time he felt he was exercising his right to free expression – after arrest, court, and reflection at what he did, he’s realized it’s unacceptable to threaten anyone and it’s certainly unacceptable to threaten a political figure and potentially interfere with the way our system works,” said Wansbuter.
He added that Dyer has recognized his anger management and impulse control needed further work, resulting in the completion of counselling. This includes anger de-escalation and the tools to detoxify negative thinking.
The defence team also noted Dyer is the primary provider of a family of 10 people.
‘LIKE A WAVE’
“This was a serious crime, it would have been serious if committed at a campaign stop of an aspiring politician who has yet to achieve office,” Parry told the court Thursday. “It is substantially more serious because it was committed against the highest-ranking elected official in our country – our effective head of state.”
“It takes one person to start a wave, and each time a person stands and waves their arms there exists the risk that others will follow and a wave will ensue,” he said later in his address.
“In our case, we have a threat at a campaign stop that had the potential to interfere with a vital part of electoral politics, which is of course a vital part of the functioning of a liberal democratic society,” said Parry. “So, the offence in question, in this case, is not simply an offence against a particular victim, in this case namely Justin Trudeau, but against the functioning of the electoral process itself.”
During the hearing, Parry briefly stood the matter down to allow the defence and Crown time to reflect on their recommended sentence after saying the threat “had the potential to interfere with a vital part of electoral politics.”
Following more discussion, the matter was once again stood down to allow Parry the opportunity to consider the evidence presented.